I’ve been away from the blog the last few weeks due to medical stuff, but I’m back and just in time. My surgery went well, and I’m recovering slowly. But everything is looking good. And last week while my brain was completely fried on pain killers I heard that people are finally talking about Epi Pens, and the current insane prices for them. As a guy with some pretty severe allergies, I’ve got to say that no matter the price I have to have them around. The alternative to having Epi Pens on hand for me is death.
The Epi Pen Price Outrage
Over the past few years I’ve seen the prices of Epi (with insurance) skyrocket. Last year I paid $425 for one kit, and that’s with my insurance as well. Unfortunately for me, I’m normally an active person who likes going outdoors. So I need an Epi Kit in my pack. It’s also smart to have another one in the Airstream. And a third for the camera bag as it is often with me. Forgetting a kit could leave me with a much shorter life. I’m not kidding. I don’t know if you understand what a severe anaphylaxis reaction is like, but I’ll try to sum it up for you……
I swell up everywhere, I start having breathing problems, my throat closes, and if I don’t use an Epi I can suffocate. You know…..no air into the lungs? Yeah, it’s an awesome fun process.
I Didn’t Know I Was Allergic
For me it started in 1989. I was working at Sea World for the summer before starting college at Rollins in Winter Park. I pulled giant carts across the park full of ice cream, soda, and lemonade slushies. In addition to walking miles and miles every day resupplying the food carts I also gave breaks to the cart workers. And one of the breaks I gave to a co-worker almost killed me.
The soda stand was a mess. It was dripping in syrup, and the employee wasn’t doing a great job at his station. I took over to give him a 15 minute break and I decided to do a little cleaning. As I picked up a soda soaked rag I got an unpleasant surprise. A yellow jacket was in the rag and it stung me. No big deal. I’d been stung so many times before as a kid, so I thought nothing of it.
A tourist approached the stand to get a soda, and he asked me if I was okay….. Strange question, but I told him yup, I was doing fine. That’s the moment he pointed out that my entire face and neck were swelling. I looked down at my hand where I had been stung and realized that my hand looked like a baseball as I had swelled so much.
I called it in on the radio, and made the long hike across the park to get to the medical station. By the time I got there my breathing was labored. I was in trouble. Fortunately an ambulance was waiting for me.
It was a sad moment. 17 years old in the back of an ambulance looking like the Stay Puff Marshmallow man from Ghost Busters. The worst part? The EMT was absolutely adorable. Here I was looking like a puffed up balloon and there was no way I was even asking for a date…….
I had no idea that I had developed a bee sting allergy, and before the day was done I learned exactly what anaphylaxis was like.
For many years after I kept Ana Kits on hand. Epi was out there too, but Ana Kit offered more bang for your buck. Smaller syringes, chewable Benadryl, and a handy case to bring along with me. Also over the years the highest price I ever paid for them out of pocket (when I was an uninsured college student) was $75. And then sadly Ana Kit went away……
I think a competitor bought them…..and closed them. Monopoly anyone?
After Ana Kits went away all the prices did was escalate. $125, then $275, $375 a few years ago, and last year with insurance I paid $425 per Epi kit. My current kits have recently expired (they expire in a year) and I haven’t renewed yet. I’m spending thousands of dollars with the medical profession right now, and we’re breaking the bank here people (yes I have insurance).
Patents and Innovations Have Value
I’m a believer in capitalism. New innovations need to have value for businesses to invest in them. But epinephrine is not a new innovation. It’s been around for a long time now. And it’s not some rare material. In fact, the kits are really cheap to produce. So why the price hike? Well, in my case I’m a captive audience. My last reaction was in June of this year. Just one more near death experience. But without the kits? Put quite simply, the blog would have ended a long time ago……you know, because I’d be dead right now. So the manufacturer is aware that they have a product I need in order to survive. Captive audience.
Here’s hoping the prices come under major scrutiny!
If you’re curious about my allergies, here’s the short list of what you can use to try and end my days. Wheat, corn, soy, dairy, eggs, peanuts, fish, shellfish, sesame, honey, bee stings. I have many more allergies, but these items are the big deal items. June’s reaction was to Sesame oil that I accidentally inhaled.